A Simple Shooting Cart - Part I

By Tom Kelley

When summer really hits hard here in the Mid-Atlantic area, skirmishing season absolutely takes off. Hauling your skirmishing gear to and from the line, either from the parking lot or camp, is a hassle that is made much easier with a shooting cart. At recent Nationals, one of my favorite vendors, "Big Sky" Bob of Built-Rite Carts, peddles his wares with remarkable success. A top of the line cart, though, can cost as much as a reproduction musket! Let's face it, I'm cheap. If I'm gonna spend that much money, it's gonna at least have sights!

It is possible to build your own shooting cart with less than $25.00 worth of lumber (2002 prices) and about that much more in hardware. You get a nice cart that holds up to four guns, or two or three long guns and an umbrella and a spotting scope. And, a cart is nice to haul all the guns at once instead of running back and forth to get the next gun for the next target. Here's how I made mine.


I built the cart in the picture with $24.30 worth of No 2 or better common pine boards. This material is readily available at major lumber/hardware chains. For a cart this simple, you will only need 16 feet of 1 by 6 No. 2 or better pine boards. You can get 2 - 8 footers, but 4 four footers fit in my trunk quite nicely. You will also need a short piece of 1 by 10 No. 2 or better pine, not more than 4 feet in length. For my handle supports, I choose a piece of 1/2 by 4 red oak. These quality boards are usually in the project section of the lumber area, and you can get 2 - 2 footers or 1 four footer. Using the red oak was an extravagance, and you could use 1 x 4 pine to keep costs down. The red oak amounted to over 30% of the lumber cost of this project, so you decide if the looks are worth the investment. You will also need a short piece (2 feet) of closet pole, 1 or 1 1/4 inches in diameter, and a wood dowel 1/2 inch in diameter and 3 feet in length.

If you want to use better, prettier lumber, by all means do so. Most stores that sell No. 2 or better graded boards also sell "select" grade lumber with fewer knots, etc. The cost will increase, however, if select lumber is used.

In addition to the lumber, you will, some deck screws (one pound, 1 /14 inch), a twelve inch piano hinge if you want to cover the top storage bin with a lid, and a 24 inch section of 1/2" All-Thread, and two wheels at least 10 inches in diameter. You will also need four 1/2 inch fender washers and two 1/2 inch by 13 hex nuts. I got all my hardware at the local Ace Hardware store.

Sizing the Cart to Your Conveyance

To be desirable, your cart has to fit in your trunk, truck bed or van with the least amount of hassle. The cart described herein is 42 inches tall and 22 inches wide, with a depth of 20 inches. These measurements include the wheels. It fits in my trunk without disassembly and serves me well at one day shoots, or shoots I only attend for one day. You may need a cart with dimensions that vary from these in either direction. The best thing to do is measure the space you want to transport the cart in, and then make sure your cart plan fits. The only admonishment I can provide is that the depth of the cart should not be greater than the width of the cart, or it will be difficult to maneuver. A few minutes spent building a cardboard model may eliminate wasted time and money later.

Cutting the Lumber

After you get the wood home, you will need to cut it into the pieces needed to construct the cart. The cart in the picture uses the following pieces: Two 1 by 6 by 33 1/2 inch uprights for the sides (piece A1 & A2); Two 1 by 6 by 14 1/2 inch dividers that form the bottom of the upright and the bottom of the upper storage bin (piece B1 & B2); Two 1 by 6 by 16 inch pieces for the front and back of the upper storage bin (C1 and C2); Three 1 by 6 by 16 inch pieces for the sides of the lower box (D1, D2 & D3); Two pieces of 1 by 10 by 16 inches for the front and back of the lower storage compartment (F1 & F2), and a piece for the front of the bottom of the cart (G1), which will have to be hand fit at the end of construction.

Building the Vertical Frame You can look at the picture and tell that the cart is just a vertical gunrack with a couple storage areas added on. The first subassembly is the vertical frame piece. Start with the two uprights (A1 and A2) and the dividers (B1 and B2). Pick the two nicest sides of each upright and position the boards so the " good side" will be on the outside. Then, attach the bottom piece (B1) to the uprights, (A1, A2) with the good side up in this case. Make sure that the bottom is between the uprights, not on the ends of the uprights. Use wood glue and two screws on each side to attach. I found it convenient to predrill a 1/16" pilot hole for the screws to keep the ends from splitting. Next, measure down from the top of each upright 5 1/2 inches, and on the inside of each upright mark a light pencil line. This line will be the bottom of piece B2, and marks the bottom of the upright storage compartment bottom board. This board also is attached with two screws on each side, and wood glue. You might want to flip the unit over in order to see the lines that you marked on the uprights. Make sure the frame is square by using a framing square on the corners, and after plumbing the unit square it wouldn't hurt to let it sit for a minute or two to set up. If your unit is way off square, or keeps kicking back out of square, you can tack a couple diagonal strips on the front and back to hold it square until the glue dries, or use pipe clamps to keep it square. While you're waiting, you can find the front and back boards (C1 & C2 - 1 x 6 x 16") for the upper storage compartment, and attach them, again using wood glue and screws. These boards go on the outside of the uprights, flush with the top of the uprights and the outer edges of the uprights. Your project is starting to look like a gun cart now, and we are almost halfway done. Find the big boards (F1 & F2), and attach them across the bottom of the upright unit on the front and back. These boards finish the bottom storage compartment area. Let the unit sit at least overnight and give the glue time to dry before going on to finish your cart. Next month, we'll finish the cart and get out on the line. Until then, promote responsible gun ownership, shoot safe, and have fun.

2002 by Tom Kelley

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